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Public Citizen Condemns Appointment of Corporate Lobbyist as Republican Party Chief

June 16, 2003

Public Citizen Condemns Appointment of Corporate Lobbyist as Republican Party Chief

New Report Outlines Ed Gillespie’s Lucrative Work on
Behalf of Enron, Other Large Corporations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – By appointing Ed Gillespie, a leading corporate lobbyist, to head the Republican National Committee, President Bush has opened a conduit for Corporate America to strengthen its already formidable influence in the White House and Congress, Public Citizen said today.

The lobbying firm Gillespie co-founded in 2000, Quinn, Gillespie & Associates, has grown into one of the capital’s most lucrative, in part because of Gillespie’s strong ties to the Bush administration.

A party chairman works hand-in-hand with the White House and congressional leaders on policy matters and election strategy, and wields a great deal of influence on legislation that may benefit contributors to the national party. Gillespie access to inside information will be invaluable to the clients and partners at Quinn Gillespie – even if Gillespie does not lobby or engage in any policy discussions with clients of his firm, in which he will continue to hold an ownership stake.

“The party chief is in a unique position to help friends and punish enemies,” Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook said. “This is just one more step in the merger of the Republican Party and Corporate America. Ed Gillespie is a richly rewarded lobbyist who greased the wheels in Congress and the White House for Enron, one of the most crooked companies in U.S. history. And now he’s at the head of the GOP. That should tell citizens where President Bush’s interests lie.”

Public Citizen today released a new analysis of Quinn Gillespie’s efforts on behalf of a slew of corporate clients on legislation to undercut consumer rights and increase the power of big business. Drawn from federal disclosure forms, the analysis shows that:

  • Since its founding by Gillespie and former Clinton White House counsel Jack Quinn in 2000, the firm has reported $27.4 million in lobbying-related income through 2002.
  • Gillespie has worked to keep national energy policy in lockstep with the wishes of Enron and other energy giants. Quinn Gillespie earned $700,000 from Enron in 2001 alone to lobby the White House on the electricity crisis on the West Coast. The administration aggressively supported Enron’s position against re-regulating electricity markets. Gillespie also channeled money from DaimlerChrysler and Enron to his 21st Energy Project, which bought print and television ads in July 2001 to promote the administration’s energy plans, including blocking any increase in fuel-economy standards.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers paid Quinn Gillespie $1.35 million from 2000 to 2002 to lobby against increased oversight of the accounting industry. PricewaterhouseCoopers – which paid a $5 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2002 for repeated accounting irregularities, including improperly auditing millions in fees paid to its own consultants – tried to limit restrictions on consulting and other services that an accounting firm could offer its clients. Effectively, Quinn Gillespie was trying to water down accounting reforms in the wake of an unprecedented wave of corporate fraud.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce paid Gillespie’s firm $860,000 from 2000 to 2002 to lobby for the so-called Class Action Fairness Act – legislation that would benefit corporations by moving lawsuits from state to federal courts, where it is more difficult to certify class actions and delays result from large case backlogs. All told, the firm has collected at least $1.12 million to lobby for this anti-consumer bill.
  • After helping set up the Commerce Department as part of the Bush transition team, Gillespie returned to his practice and immediately began lobbying on behalf of clients with business before the department. Gillespie helped secure tariffs against foreign competition for the “Stand Up for Steel” coalition and USEC Inc., the country’s largest supplier of enriched uranium fuel to nuclear power plants.
  • Tyson Foods paid Quinn Gillespie $440,000 in 2002, in part to downplay federal charges against Tyson for conspiring to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States to work at its poultry processing plants for lower wages than it paid legal workers. The firm also lobbied on “wage and hour” issues for Tyson, a result of a Labor Department lawsuit against Tyson seeking $300 million in back pay owed to workers.

Other clients of Quinn Gillespie include DirecTV, Microsoft, SBC Communications, Verizon and Viacom.

As chairman of the RNC, Gillespie will be the party’s lead fundraiser and spokesman, responsible for raising hundreds of millions of dollars each election cycle and determining which candidates get the money, thereby holding the purse strings for the legislators his firm works to persuade.

“Very few non-governmental positions in American politics offer so much potential for corruption,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “Why would corporations need to hire a lobbyist if they could go straight to lawmakers through Gillespie? President Bush was wrong to appoint such a crony of big business.”

Click here to view Public Citizen’s analysis.